The publication of the John Smith’s Grand National weights always creates a buzz and many punters can’t resist trying to beat the bookmakers by backing an old favourite, even though we are still almost two months away from the big day.
BetVictor are offering to return all stakes on non-runners from now on as a free bet, which is a step in the right direction, though you should use the comparison sites to check if your selection isn’t advertised at bigger odds elsewhere as I’ve noticed they are only going 11/1 about early favourite Prince De Beauchene, who is 12/1 with most other layers (we won’t even discuss what Ladbrokes are doing with an 8/1 quote).
Prince De Beauchene is one of seven entries from Willie Mullins‘ Muine Beag yard and has already won on the Mildmay course at Aintree. He’s been very lightly campaigned recently so is probably being prepared for the National, though stablemate On My Own (14/1 with Betfred and Coral) also has the right credentials. Tidal Bay (a general 14/1) heads the weights this year and has come right back to his best over the last 12 months. He was second in the Hennessy Gold Cup in November, a recognised Grand National trial, and then won the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown just after Christmas. He will, however, almost certainly take in the Cheltenham Gold Cup en route and that is sure to take something out of the 12-year-old though Paul Nicholls did, of course, train last year’s National winner Neptune Collonges.
Last year’s placed horses, Sunnyhillboy, Seabass and Cappa Bleu, are all due back at Aintree. Seabass (16/1 with Boylesports and Ladbrokes) is currently preferred by bookmakers while Teaforthree‘s odds will contract if he wins this weekend’s Grand National Trial at Haydock. Rebecca Curtis‘ gelding won the 4m National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last season and was second in the Welsh National at Chepstow this term. He is currently available at 20/1 in several places while Ballabriggs is set to carry the same weight as when successful in 2011 and is a general 33/1.
My early two against the field are Chicago Grey and Alfie Sherrin. The former was brought down in the early stages of last year’s Grand National through no fault of his own and gets in off a 9lb lower mark this year. Gordon Elliott’s grey is another former winner of the National Hunt Chase so his stamina isn’t in question and the yard have taken their time with him this season. Very effective on the good ground that usually prevails in early April, he is currently 40/1 with BetVictor, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power. Alfie Sherrin (a general 33/1) was doing his best work at the finish of the 3m5f Irish National last April and is another proven stayer. He’s had just two runs this winter to protect his handicap mark, one of over hurdles, and Jonjo O’Neill will be hoping he can gain compensation for Sunnyhillboy’s unlucky defeat last year.